Odd One Out

"I believe this game is mine." Saguru moved his final piece as their already thirty-plus minute game came to an end. He watched Kuroba pick up his general, flipping it between his fingers before it disappeared.

"Yeah, my loss this time."

"I do want that returned," Saguru stressed.

"I know." Kuroba sighed, resting his hands on legs where they were crossed in front of him on the sofa, taking in the results of the game. "Don't worry. It won't be missed if you take the game back out."

There were noise and people all around them, and though it was by no means cheating, Saguru did consider himself the winner only because one of their classmates had interrupted Kuroba during his turn and broke the magician's concentration. It wasn't much of a win in his books by that account, but a win none the less.

Aoko came up to them, a very red Christmas hat on her head and looked at the game bored, her forehead creasing. "What's that?"

"Janggi," Saguru answered, leaning back and stretching. "I'm actually surprised Kuroba-kun knows how to play."

Kuroba was currently moving some of the pieces around, seeming mindless in his actions, though he did speak with Aoko. "It's kinda like Chinese chess, but the pieces are different and you move them differently."

"Oh." Aoko looked over the board as well, and it's tiles.

"Forgive me, Aoko-san. I didn't know if you were familiar with it or not, or I would have explained it better."

"That's okay." Aoko smiled and looked up at him. It made him very happy to be smiled at like that. "Why are you both over here when we're supposed to be having a party? I know you said we could use your house at the last moment when Keiko's family came in for the holidays instead, but don't you want to participate?"

"Actually." Saguru looked over at his classmate who was still pondering over the pieces. "I'm finding this rather interesting. Kuroba-kun is familiar with far more board games then I would have given him credit for before today." Saguru gestured to the six or seven on his left and there were still a few more that were on the floor by his feet. This was already their third and last game of Janggi. It was a rule, three times each, that they had both agreed upon until one of them became bored. So far, Saguru saw such a thing far into the future, and it didn't look like Kuroba was giving up before he was.

Kuroba sighed, getting all the tiles in his hand and emptying the game board. The loser was the one who either reset the pieces or put the game away. "At least I got close." Saguru watched the magician stare up at Aoko with a smile of his own, though it hardly gave off the same feelings Aoko's did. "Don't worry. I'm sure he's not bored." Kuroba winked. "I know how to make games interesting."

Aoko smiled, putting her hands behind her back and walking away. "Okay, but you guys can't sit there forever."

Saguru actually contemplated that thought, looking across the table with a smile of his own as he handed the next game board over. "Are you familiar with this one?" Playing against him like this was rather enjoyable, and he could see himself doing it all night if he wasn't stopped.

Kuroba looked at the board and took it, taking off the cover. "Heard of it and know the rules, but I've never played it before."

That intrigued him a bit, as well as disappointed him. If Kuroba wasn't familiar with the game that would automatically give him the advantage. "How do you know of a game you've never played? I can say I've heard of a few I've never picked up, but I hardly would know them well enough to play them."

"I've gotten bored. Online has some games that are interesting. I learned how to play this one but you really need a board for it, so I've never played it." Kuroba handed him the red tiles, taking the blue for himself. "Don't worry. I'll still beat you." Kuroba grinned at him, taking his own pieces into his lap so Saguru couldn't see them and putting several down on the board, facing himself, in a seemingly random alignment.

Saguru took his own, taking the lid of the box instead of his own limb, and placing his pieces down as well. "I still hardly think it's fair, and this game often takes far longer than the others. How about we play a practice round that will not count towards our score and then one real one?"

"Or how about we just play one game and I beat you, showing you what a complete moron you are for not trusting me? I told you, I know how to play, and you're right, this might take a while." Kuroba looked up at him after placing several more pieces. "One game, one chance to beat me. That's all you're getting."

Saguru finished setting the last of his up, putting the top of the board on the floor by his feet and resigning himself to Kuroba's declaration. "Very well, but I still think it's unfair of me to do such a thing."

"I'll see your strategy if we play a practice round." Kuroba tapped the edge of the board in impatience. "And you'll see mine. I think that's more unfair. I lost last game. You go first."

Saguru sighed, sliding his piece on the far right into position. "Very well then."

The game was far more intriguing that Saguru would have given Kuroba credit for before it had started. His classmate had, several times, sent his scout out to attack his front runners, which was a foolish move. The rest of the game, Saguru had a hard time identifying pieces that had either not moved, or refused to attack when he drew in. His classmate would either retreat or heedlessly rush into a battle that, surprisingly, he was nearly half the time winning. Saguru was so focused on the pieces and their positions that the room around him essentially disappeared. In a game of strategy, and against an opponent who was as wilily as he was outside of the game, it was harder to find victory than he thought it would be.

After Kuroba, for the eighth time in a row, attacked one of his unknown pieces and lost his Sergeant to Saguru's Capitan, Saguru spoke up. "You do know that rushing in like that will only lose you the game. I told you we could practice first."

"Don't worry about it." His classmate didn't even look up, his eyes focused solely on the game bored. "You're move."

Saguru moved a piece, unfortunately losing his one of his other captains. "I have to say, your random assortment of bombs has me confused."

"Yours are in the center and right hand sides of the board." Kuroba took his finger and pointed to the general direction that, indeed, he had his own pieces stationed. "But I doubt you would bluff me. I just have to figure out which one you're flag is near."

"Who says I am not bluffing?" Saguru looked up from his pieces to stare at his classmate. "You made that assumption rather quickly and you've lost a good deal of pieces going for those two sections."

"Strategy is up here," Kuroba taped the side of his temple, looking up with a grin. "I know what kind of person you are, and you're not someone who would leave such an obvious bluff. If I had to guess, I'd say it's somewhere in the middle, not the back row though, and you could have maybe put it directly behind a bomb so that you could guard if I got close. You likely have a General nearby, and a Marshal right behind that one, to block against anything I might surprise you with."

That was indeed his layout, but Saguru gave no facial expression towards his classmate's words, though his heart sped up. "Perhaps. I suggest you move and we shall see."

"And the game continues," Kuroba said, smiling as he spoke and using one of his scouts in the back to collide with a piece that Kuroba could have already guessed was a bomb, since Saguru had to move several of his pieces around it. But of course, that would have been easy. What Saguru ended up having the scout go up against was one of his colonels. The Scout lost.

Kuroba had gotten lucky and gotten his Spy early on with a lucky Scout, but Saguru was clearly the one in control of the game, no matter how hard Kuroba was trying to stop it. His Miner ended up finding Kuroba's flag completely by chance.

"My game."

Kuroba sighed, reaching over and picking up the red flag from where Saguru was shocked he had discovered it. "Yeah, I couldn't reach it in time. Your win."

"You know," Saguru started, "You became aware of my strategy pretty quickly. Was it really because of your knowledge of me? I don't honestly see how that translates to a game. I do not always put my flag there."

"No, but this is the first time you're playing me, and by default, you'd fall back onto a strategy you felt safe with, had probably built any other strategies around. You're a straightforward person, but you're cautious. Anyone would have set defenses up. The obvious bluff you used was to get your best pieces to take on mine, because I wouldn't know where the bluff was coming from before the game began. As you were able to move it, you set up two defenses, instead of being obvious, and you weren't going to waste your resources trying to block all three. So, while straightforward, you like to have a backup plan in case one fails." Kuroba reached over and put the flag back where it had been. "Predictable, but only after I'd figured out more of your pieces. It wasn't until the fifteenth or sixteenth move that I was sure if it."

"Whereas you're completely chaotic, and thus, so is your layout."

"Not so." Kuroba moved to reveal his remaining pieces, his spy right next to Saguru's Marshal. "I just needed more turns." There was a General that could have been moved next to his own the next turn, his General disabled the turn after that, then the last remaining scout on Kuroba's side of the board would have had his opening to win the game.

"Well, for your first game, you've done really well."

"Nice way of prettying up a loss," Kuroba said as he grinned. He stretched. "Well, I'm getting bored."

"Only because you are losing."

Kuroba huffed out a breath, halfway through the stretch, and glared at him. "No. Unlike some, this IS a party, and I plan on having some fun. What's the final score anyway?"

Saguru took the notebook from beside him, adding a scratch mark to those below his name. "Ten to twelve. Your lead."

"We'll make up those other two games later." Kuroba go up, sliding the pieces off the board and putting it away. Saguru took his own, placing them in there as well. Kuroba glared at him, but didn't take as much offense to the action as he thought he would. Saguru put the games to the side, leaving them out for now.

"That was far more enjoyable than I thought it would be."

"I'm pretty good with games, though you kept getting me on that pebble one. I can't count as fast as you can."

"Mancala," Saguru spoke clearly. "And, if I'm correct in my recollection, you did beat me at Hijara as many times as I'd beaten you previously."

"I like that game. I never knew anyone that played."

"You'd be hard pressed to find something that I am not familiar with. Of all cultures, I find that games are the most intriguing things to come out of them."

"Yeah?" Kuroba watched him as he stood. "I kinda like languages better than games. It's cool how so many different systems can be brought about and understood by rearranging letters or symbols."

"You know." Saguru moved over to get some of the snacks he had laid out, both of Japanese culture and English. He did that more for himself and anyone who would be interested in trying something new. A few crackers and some cheese were all he was interested in for the moment. "I would really like to play a game of Risk with you if we find some time in the future."

"I've heard of it, but never played it before." Kuroba came up behind him, snatching some of the meat and cheese off the platter that Saguru had just visited and making a small sandwich of them between the crackers. "You need the board game for that one too, but I'm a fast learner. Just show me the rules and I'm sure I can figure it out."

"I do not believe they come in Japanese."

"That's fine." His classmate ate the cracker sandwich as a whole, not bothering to bite at it. "I can 'eed Eng'ish."

Saguru coughed a little on his own cracker. "Chew at least. And I think there are terms in the directions that will still be hard to understand, even with how far along the schools here are."

Kuroba licked his thumb of residue, wiping it across the corner of his lip where cracker particles were laying. "That's fine. I'm pretty good in English. I'll understand it."

That had him a bit interested, though he had assumed Kuroba knew English well enough to speak it, not read it. "About your interests in languages, do you know any others?"

Kuroba looked around for a second before smiling at him. "Yeah, but don't let it get around. I'm not going to have people go off, naming me a genius or anything for it. I have a rather strong semantic memory. Can't help it. Was born with it. Doesn't help me at all with math, but languages come to me a little easier than others." His classmate shrugged. "They've always been easier for me. I don't really want to be held above everyone else for it though."

"You're physical talents are rather remarkable as well."

Kuroba glared at him for what had to be the dozenth time that day. "Is this you being interested, or you nosing around, trying to get information to prove I'm someone I'm not?"

"No, I am truly interested." Saguru nodded his head, his arms folded in front of him. "And you never answered. What other languages are you familiar with, and to what extent?"

"Well." Kuroba huffed, looking reluctant to speak now. "We keeping this confidential? Bring it up in front of anyone and I'll deny it."

"Completely confidential, if you wish. I have no reason to draw you out of class. As you said, I am trying to prove something. I would have nothing to gain by spreading any knowledge of you, such as this, around."

"Fine then." Kuroba seemed to think about it. "I know French... pretty well. There are words every now and then I come across that I don't recognize, but I look them up. I can, maybe, tell you the definition of 80% of the French dictionary and speak it fluently. Spelling I'm a little iffy on, but I'm getting better. I know some Spanish, but that language has been a little harder for me. I can understand basic conversations and take part in them, but nothing too complicated. I'm even worse on the spelling for that language than I am the speaking. Let's see... I know some Russian. I can speak that pretty commonly too, a few dozen words more than I can in Spanish. Spelling... eh. Better than the others. I can spell most of the Russian words I know better than the French, but I know more French words, so I don't know how that evens out." Kuroba looked up at him during this part in his contemplations. "Chinese I have down as fluently as I do English, though I'm kinda iffy on some of the branched off dialects."

Saguru wasn't sure how to take that information and what kind of weight it really held. "Besides my own English and Japanese, I know German and I know Spanish. Both as well as any of my other base languages. I cannot say I am as far along as you are, and I have hardly tried to get into those languages myself."

"Oh." Kuroba looked up at him. "I know German too. I don't know... better than I know Russian and worse than I know French." Kaito grinned. "Hey, that's kinda cool. I can make fun of you and no one will yell at me because they won't know I'm doing it!"

"Hardly. Most of the words are very similar in English and I wouldn't stoop that low to start up an argument in another language with you just to bother our classmates. I have nothing to discuss with you that cannot be discussed aloud."

"Fine then, party killer. It was just a suggestion." Kuroba shrugged, trying to get past him to get something to drink from the other end. Saguru put a hand on his classmate's shoulder before he got far.

"You're knowledge is still remarkable. The only reason that I know German is because my mother taught it to me while I was growing up. I have family in Germany. Spanish was more of a mandatory pastime."

"Yeah, well, they're more of pastimes for me too." Kuroba shrugged, brushing off his hand. "It's not like I need to know anything other than English."

"Your pastimes, then, seem extensive. Even your knowledge of the games I own is far greater than I believe anyone's here."

"Again, Hakuba-kun. Pastimes. Now I'm not the only person here, go talk to-"

Saguru heard the screech of electricity before all the lights went out.

"Kuroba-kun, so help me if you-"

"I didn't do it, I swear." He could hear his classmate in front of him still, but he couldn't see anything. "You don't have a flashlight somewhere, do you?"

Saguru thought about it. "There's a cabinet-" Everyone around him started talking louder and louder, asking questions, some giggling, others making noises of fear- all drowning him out. "Bathroom's in the back, on the left. There's a bedroom door to the right of it and a supply closet to the left. It should be on the shelf." Saguru didn't know why he was telling Kuroba, but when he had spoke, he heard no sound from his classmate after and his night vision had yet to kick in.

He drew his voice louder so the others in the room could hear him. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience. I will have the lights back on shortly. If everyone could just stay where they are for a few minutes so we're not running into one another, I would appreciate it."

His words did seem to calm the noise down, though he heard some giggling and more than a few people knocking into each other for fun. In the minute or so it took his eyes to adjust, the outside light barely making it in, he noticed Kuroba right in front of him. He was close enough to be made out along with the fact that he was handing him something. He took the flashlight. "How ever did you find it in the dark?"

"My eyesight's better than average too." He could swear he could see Kuroba grinning at him in the darkness. "Anyway, keep it off. You'll blind everyone. Where's your fuse box?"

"Um, basement." He started walking away, towards the front of the house. The stairs to the basement were outside. He was dimly aware of the fact that Kuroba was following him.

Even though it was his own house, Saguru wasn't used to traversing it in the dark and tripped himself up more than a few times on objects he couldn't see in the dark. Kuroba seemed to miss the same obstacles entirely, snickering at him every time his plans at avoiding the next one were foiled.

"Could you be something more helpful than a walking laughter track," Saguru muttered in contempt as he tripped at the divider between the walkway and the carpet.

"Sorry." Kuroba didn't sound sorry at all though.

Saguru opened the door, stepping out into the chilly air without a coat. He cussed under his breath where no one could hear, wrapping his arms around himself as he turned the flashlight on and went around the side. There was a door there, the inside of the house having a hollow alcove near where the shoes were placed so that the pathway could be there. Saguru fiddle with the keys in his pocket while his classmate decided to be even more unhelpful as he peered over his shoulder at the door, asking a question into his ear. "You go to the basement often?"

Saguru shivered, pushing Kuroba back and losing the key. "Of course not! There's nothing down there but some old boxes that remain unpacked from years of buildup, and the breaker. I have no reason to go down there." Saguru fiddled with them some more until he had the key, shoving it into the lock and opening the older door. He shined the light down the stairs so he wouldn't trip. He stopped about halfway and guided the light back upward. "And just why are you following me?"

Kuroba moved his hand to cover his eyes. "Hey! Don't blind me! I'm just here to keep you company! Why go alone- that's so boring."

Saguru let out a breath, turning the light away. "Very well, but don't keep up this puppy dog routine. It's rather annoying."

"Arf-arf," Kuroba said with a laugh as he followed him down the steps.

Saguru watched the light shine off the dusty boxes that had most likely spent years building up to what they were today. They were all stuff his family had no room or time for anymore, and even Saguru would admit to not wanting to go through all the boxes. It was simply too much work, though he had cleared some of them out by the stairway when he'd first arrived.

Kuroba whistled behind him. "Man, you've got a lot of stuff. Someone could come down here and rob you and you'd never know it was gone."

"They are welcome to it. These are hardly my belongings. I've tried sorting through them but somehow ended up with less room than I started with. I have since declared it a fool's task and will leave it to their owners to do with as they see fit. As far as I'm concerned, this is just a storage area for someone else."

"But they're your family's right? Don't you care?"

"Hardly. As you said, someone could take whatever they'd like and whatever relative it had belonged to would never miss it. Better it be in someone else's hands than rotting away down here." Saguru had to navigate through the rows of boxes, forking off one way to get to the breaker. "A hoarder would find themselves at home here in the meantime."

Saguru saw the box on the wall, heading towards it when something caught on his foot. He heard the clack of wood against concrete before the boxes around him fell, one of them containing glass since he could hear it shatter as he closed his eyes and guarded himself against anything that may have fallen on him. Something hit the side of head hard enough for him to lose track of time while the noise slowly faded into the distance.

"Hey, Hakuba-kun." Kuroba pulled on his sleeve as he helped him to his feet, boxes littered around them, though it seemed only a few had fallen close enough to make contact. "You alright?"

"Of course I'm not. I feel like I've just had the whole place come down on my head." He looked around, seeing the beam of the flashlight from further up, walking over a few boxes to get to it and close enough to the breaker to open the box and flip the switch. The lights came back on, even the one for the basement, though he hadn't remembered to flip the switch on the way down. Kuroba must have done it.

"Hey, you're bleeding." His classmate looked at him, concerned, as he went over some of the fallen boxes to get to him. Saguru could feel the blood drip down the side of his head, near his temple, though he hadn't noticed it before. Kuroba put a handkerchief to the side of his face, moving it up until Saguru winced. The magician held it there. "Here, take it. We'll go back upstairs and see if we can't get a bandage. If not, you might need to go to the hospital and have them look at it."

"It's just a head wound. They do tend to bleed." Saguru put his hand over the cloth, looking around the room. "That was no accident. I heard something before they fell."

"I know." He could see Kuroba looking around the room as well. "I did too. I didn't have time to see what it was though."

Saguru watched Kuroba turn to him, eyes a bit sad, something he hadn't ever seen from his classmate before. "Don't turn around."

"Why?" And he couldn't help but turn. It was a natural reaction that spurred something in him, especially when Kuroba said it. It made him want to do it. Once he had, he grew angry. The hand at his side clenched into a fist as he started at the Kanji, written in spray paint above the fuse box. Just two characters. "That foolishness is beyond any-!" Saguru was so mad he couldn't find the words in which to speak.

"Calm down. There's nothing we can do about it right now." Kuroba held out his hand in his direction. "Come on, let's go check on everyone and get you cleaned up."

Gaijin stared back at him in ugly red, dripping letters, obviously dried for a few days now. "I will not be discriminated against in my own home!"

"Hakuba-kun, please! You're bleeding. Let's just go. We'll deal with this after."

Saguru turned, almost furious at his classmate for his disregard. "No! I will not stand for something like this! Someone obviously broke in here, likely cut the power themselves and went far enough to try and have me hurt! Who knows how badly this could have turned out! I won't have it!"

"I know. Trust me, Hakuba-kun, I know. But right now you are hurt and we can't do anything about whoever did this. We can do something about getting you help."

Saguru let out a rough, shaky breath, and gave into the logic behind those words. He used his own balance, and what was left of the standing boxes to get over those that had fallen, ignoring his classmate. Kuroba waited until he passed him, noise marking where the magician was following behind him. "Playing puppy dog again?"

This time there was no answer.

Saguru reached the outside, shivering once more at the cold and looking at the door and the scratches that marred the lock. "You knew someone had broken in."

"I didn't know for sure, and it's not like I can tell how old the marks were." Kuroba exited, letting Saguru close the door, though he didn't care to lock it this time. Why bother?

Saguru couldn't see how badly he was bleeding, but he didn't want the attention should he walk back in the house at that moment, so he continued along the side a few feet until he came to the water faucet that the hose was no longer hooked up to. He turned on the water, taking the cloth that Kuroba had given him and soaking it before wiping at his face and through his hair. "I'll replace it." The water was absolutely frigid and it felt as if it should be ice. It was better than going in, covered in blood though.

"You don't have to. I can get another one. It wouldn't be the first time I've had to replace it. Besides, I gave it to you. Think of it as a present."

Saguru couldn't help a small smile as he turned off the water, wringing the cloth out before putting it back to the spot just above his hairline where he felt the most pain. "Not the most extravagant gift I've ever been given, but a considerate one."

"Baka." He turned in time to see Kuroba stick his tongue out at him. "That's not you're present, but don't think you're real one is anything special either. Aoko picked it out and I chipped in."

Saguru was a bit surprised, but he wouldn't have put it past her in particular to have singled him out. He didn't speak up much in class and half the time he was hardly even there. "That was thoughtful... of both of you."

"Hey, forget about that- doesn't matter." Kuroba tipped his head far to the side and looked at him as if he were on a different plane. "Are you okay? Does it hurt?"

"Of course it does." Saguru let out a breath. "But it's not as if this is anything new. It was my fault, really. I should never have let my presence in Japan reach the papers. I prefer letting people spread my good name on their own. Now I've let the mass public, including those with more nationalistic tendency, think I am even more boastful than I truly am. It has angered more than one citizen to act against me. This is hardly the first time. I'm just growing tired of it."

"And you've gone to the police? You know you can set up an alarm system or something. That might work." He watched Kuroba look over the darker side of his house where the front light didn't quite reach them. "You have a lot of windows. A security system would help."

"I don't want to be popular among the police for that reason. It's hard enough keeping my mother off my back. I do not return to England so often for my own benefit."

"I can help you set something up." Kuroba still was looking over the house so his classmate didn't meet his eye when he said that. "More of a personal alarm system so that only you would know what had happened. I'm sure they have some like that in stores, too."

He had really never contemplated the thought of that. Most of the things before had been harmless and only cost, at most, the price of an old gaming system or so to fix or replace. "I would actually appreciate that, but after the holidays. I will not be staying here for two weeks after the 27th."

"Okay. Just saying." Kuroba walked past him, towards the back entrance with his hands shoved in his jean pockets as he shivered. "Come on. You should see if you can bandage that."

Saguru nodded. The back was where he was headed anyway. The kitchen was back there, but there was a bathroom after that, and while their entire class and their friends were currently entertaining themselves, he hoped most had stuck to the front room.

There were only five he noticed after he unlocked the door and as soon as Kuroba stepped back. He had noticed his none-too-typical classmate had reacted to what could have indicated he wanted to try to open the locked door, even after he realized it was locked before Saguru got to it. For now he had no proof and was not in the mood for an argument.

Two girls, one he knew to be a classmate, walked up to him when he passed. "What happened?"

"I lost my footing in the darkness. It's nothing to be concerned about."

Saguru was, again, a bit surprised when the girl and her friend that he knew he had never seen before both continued to look worried. The other girl spoke up.

"Can we do anything to help?"

"No. I'm quite fine on my own. I'm going to properly care for it right now."

"Make sure you disinfect it first."

Saguru nodded to the second girl, giving her a smile. "Do not worry. I'll take care of it. Please, enjoy yourselves. It's nothing more than a scratch."

He walked past them, at least content with the fact that not all of the population was against him. His classmates had been strangely welcoming. He'd hardly made a good first impression. Straightforwardness was a trait of his that he was rather fond of, for being as much of a recluse as he knew he tended towards when alone.

Kuroba followed him into the bathroom, though he had no argument to put up against the action. Throwing the cloth away, he took out gauze and realized, no matter how small the cut was, it was in his hair and he would need to wrap the bandages around his head for the material to stay in place.

"I can help." Kuroba offered him his hand. Saguru was used to ulterior motives behind any act of the magician's, but even his less reputable classmate knew where to draw the line and putting the wrapping on was difficult, so he handed it over and sat on the toilet seat while his classmate did it for him.

Once Kuroba was done he felt something fuzzy brush against his ears.

"Christmas hat. Nothing anyone would be surprised to see you wear and if it starts to fall off, the bandages won't be that noticeable."

"Thank you." He stood up and looked in the mirror. He'd already had on a black shirt and a red overcoat. The hat went along with it well. "I didn't think that far off yet."

"I just did it so you won't be swarmed with people asking you what happened."

"I'd hardly think there'd be a swarm, but it would ruin the festive atmosphere."

"Eh," Kuroba shrugged and Saguru's eyes were drawn towards him.

"What is it?"

"Nothing." Kuroba grinned at him. "I've just ruined more than a few parties myself. I don't think you being injured would be that much of a downer."

Saguru couldn't help the small laugh in his throat or his raised eyebrow. "You have ruined parties? I find that hard to believe. You've kept your antics down this time, as far as I can tell, but you seem like one who would only heighten the emotions," though maybe not in a positive way.

"Just forget it," Kuroba said offhandedly with that grin of his. "I just meant that I don't think anyone would be worse off for knowing." Kuroba then proceeded to poke in him the arm, and pretty hard at that. "Attention's not always a bad thing you know."

"You may have the limelight to yourself at the moment, thank you." Saguru pushed the magician's hand away when he wouldn't cease his prodding. "And would you kindly keep to yourself as well?"

"No," his classmate answered as if it had not been a fair request. "If I did, who would you have to bother you? Besides, it's not fair if you can bother me and I can't get you back."

"I'm hardly bothering you at the moment now, am I?" Saguru grabbed his wrist when it seemed Kuroba really wasn't intending on stopping and it was getting a bit painful.

"I get your money and I get to set up whatever I want." Kuroba held his hand out sideways while it was still in his hold. "And in return I won't bother you for... hm." Kuroba looked up as if seeing images of the future. "Two hours. That's it."

"As if I would agree to such a thing." But Saguru did release him and the magician kept his hand out instead of poking at him. Saguru sighed. "You're not intending on letting the matter fall, are you?"

"Not if the sky turned orange and cows rained down from the heavens," Kuroba spoke, far to assured of himself and showing much too many teeth, predominantly, his fangs.

"You are like a cobra, you know that? You're too deceptive for my tastes. I intend to watch for the day that bovines plummet from the sky then, as I do not need your assistance and am quite fine setting up my own security measures if you intend to try and con me into it."

"That wasn't what I was trying to do." Kuroba's eyes were far too childish and his expression far too sincere for Saguru to believe otherwise. "I was trying to get you help without you having to ask for it- because I know you won't."

Saguru was surprised, but he was also angry. "I would not ask for the help because I do not need the help. I could easily go to my father if I did. You want to come to some sort of compromise then? I'll give you whatever money you need to set up whatever security as long as this does not get to the hands of any officers. I will at least not have this type of thing spreading around. And in return..." Saguru had to think about what he wanted. There were so many things on the list but none opportunistic to ask. "Do not, in any way, hinder or stop me while I am pursuing Kid." For appearances sake, he would say 'Kid'. "I did not appreciate the run around a few months back, and if this is going to be any type of fair competition, the players need to be present."

"Now how would I have any control over that?"

"I do not know. How would a classmate of mine have a better understanding of where to place security devices around my house more than myself? Answer the second and the first shall follow suit."

Kuroba looked away. He actually broke eye contract to sulk on his own rather than fight the implications. "You're making it so I lose either way, even if I had a way to do what you asked. That's no fair deal at all." Then Kuroba kicked him in the leg and it hurt.

"Will you stop being so violent?" Saguru growled. "We're discussing things."

"No we aren't." Saguru moved before he could be kicked again. "You're making demands."

"You're the one who called it an agreement."

"I'm not agreeing."

"Very well." Saguru took a breath and waiting until his classmate looked back at him, though it was more towards a glare now. That was no so unusual. "You make the suggestions then. I do believe you'd know what I'd agree to better than I'd know your boundaries."

Kuroba watched him, evaluating, though it was hidden behind a curt smile. "I'm just asking you to let me help you. Still your money and your house-"

"So then in turn it should be fair that I should be allowed to help you and my previous terms are by far more lenient than I could have made them."

"How would that help me?"

"Whether or not you will admit to it, you are a fan of Kid's at the least, and I do intend to discover more than simply who he is. Why he does what he does has already become quite obvious to me. So by being there, I may be able to help him in ways that wouldn't be considered helping him to anyone."

"Why do you always talk about Kid?"

Kuroba was just watching him and Saguru didn't know what to say. "What do you mean? I'm worried is all and there are several concerns I've had with the last few-"

"No, I mean to me. Why do you always talk about Kid to me?" Kuroba cocked his head to the side. "You talk to me all the time but I doubt you know so much as my favorite color or foods I like to eat."

"Well..." Saguru frowned. "Why would that information be of use to me?"

"So you only talk to me because you're interested in Kid?"

"I-" His frown deepened as he thought. "I never looked at it that way before. I do suppose that I should have more typical conversation with you from time to time, but what would you want to discuss?"

"What kind of movies do you like? What kind of food do you eat? What's your favorite color, drink..." He paused. "Author, artist. What kind of hobbies do you have? What do you like to do with your free time? Let's start there. You don't need anything special to bring up a conversation."

"I am aware of that. Those types of conversations have just simply never come up, and we have drawn far from our original conversation."

"No we haven't." Kuroba crossed his arms in front of himself. "I changed my mind. You want my help, ask for it." His classmate then stuck out his hand again. "I don't think we ever did this. I'm Kuroba Kaito. I'm you're classmate and your friend and not everything about me has to revolve around one obsession. I'm me. Be friends with me."

Saguru stared, wide-eyed, before placing his hand in his classmate's and shaking it. "Forgive me. You're right, Kuroba-kun, I've had a one track mind as of recently and I've barely gotten to know you. I do plan to remedy that."

"There's one thing you should really keep in mind though." Kuroba's grin turned almost demonic as he let go of his hand and all but ran out the door. "You can never stop me from doing what I want."

"Now what on earth does that mean?" Saguru looked after him, afraid to see what this want of Kuroba's might be. He didn't have to wait long.

Kuroba was in front of everyone who was gathered in the main room where the refreshments and tree were. He was standing on the top part his sofa, somehow managing not to tip it over, though the students currently sitting on it were most likely the reason. He had his arms spread and everyone was looking at him- and at the very red outfit he had on, minus the gut and beard. Saguru realized where the hat he was wearing must have come from because Kuroba's erratic hair was easy to see.

"- So let's have some fun!"

Saguru was glad he had waited. Whatever part of Kuroba's speech he had missed, he felt he was better off for it.

Then the magician held out his hand and snapped his fingers. That he was prepared for. The blinding light that over-road his other senses and made him close his eyes was not. It couldn't have lasted more than five seconds and anything that happened in those few seconds was nothing but a rush of some type of humming noise. When it was gone he had to repetitively blink his eyes to get the bright burn marks in front of them to lessen enough that he could see. When he could, his classmates around him were sporting antler headbands and had a little deer tail wrapped around them. Saguru looked down, finding the same band and tail and feeling the extra weight that said there were antlers on his own head as well as the hat.

There was one thing he felt though that the others didn't seem to have. He put his fingers up to his face and looked at the little red nose on an elastic string. "Really now."

"What?" Kuroba said, somehow next to him. "Leave it alone. I did that on purpose."

"Why would I have to wear it and not the others?"

"Because, my host, you're different than us." Kuroba winked at him. "And that's not a bad thing. It's not what you look like, it's how you act. You want to be the one who helps all the people of this world as a detective, people that have even made fun of you and ridiculed you like Kid has." Kuroba took the nose from his lack fingers and put it back in place. "So, you're the shining beacon everyone follows."

"I hardly think that's befitting."

"I couldn't disagree with you more. Leave it on." And then Kuroba was gone, almost as if he vanished into the shadows of the room itself. Saguru blamed his vision still being poor for not having seen it. He did, however, keep the nose on, as humiliating as he found it. He would remove it should anyone laugh at him.

And no one did. A few times he got slapped on the back, and a few of the males from his class would call out 'hey, it's Rudolph', but none of them in any way that was condescending. It was just something to smile and laugh at, in a good way. He was sure not to make a repeat of this, and being different was nothing to he was ever ashamed of in the past. Whoever decided to bother him in his own house, he would see to it that something was done about it. Kuroba had an odd way of taking him from one choice to almost the complete opposite, but it was the correct one. He'd have to ask him for help upon his return, though he would likely receive nothing for it.

Saguru found himself smiling with the others. It was strange. They were all almost new people to him. He spent so little time in Japan he never realized that many of his classmates had remained nameless to him before now. If he was going to be enrolled in school with them that was something he must fix, even if he did have to ask them up-front what their names were. They didn't seem to care. Several even messed with him the same way Kuroba had started to do. As wrinkled as it made his clothes, he couldn't find himself caring about that either. The girls... they had a way of making him blush- particularly when one lightly touched his arm and said 'Rudolph, the cutest reindeer of all.' Yes, that one got him for a time.

Saguru had to admit that he was... happy. He'd been intrigued before, driven. He'd had reason to look into things, reasons to talk to people. With his classmates though, and those of the other classes, it was purely for enjoyment and there wasn't much time for that normally.

Kuroba appeared behind him some time later and hit him hard enough on the back to hurt.

"Must you really keep doing that?"

"Yeah, I must." His classmate stuck his tongue out at him. "Anyway Rudi, you feeling okay? Wanted to make sure that knock to the head didn't mash your brains in. You actually look like you're having fun."

"That was your intention, was it not?"

"No," Kuroba said airily with a smirk. "They could have laughed at you and you could have run into a corner and hid away your shame. I wasn't sure. I just wanted them to notice you and you notice them. If people are making fun of you, at least that means that their seeing you."

Saguru frowned. "That's and odd way to think about it."

"Really?" Kuroba kept grinning. "I don't know. More people that see you though, the more chances you'll have to find someone who can be your friend. With all the moving, I can see why you haven't had many. That and you're... obsessive." Kuroba laughed. "Not that that's a bad thing either- just make room for other things."

"Such as your favorite color."

"Yeah." Kuroba laughed again. "Things like that."

"That would be of absolutely no importance to me."

"Now that's not true. If you're friends with someone, any little thing you know about them can be used in your favor. I know Aoko likes spring the best, she's no good at all in history class, and her favorite animals are squirrels. It just kind of paints a picture. The more you know about someone, the more you can talk about, and the more they'll know you. It's just something that happens." Kuroba sighed. "You know, you give me the worst headaches. I did it because I did it. Happy?"

Saguru saw his chance and punched his classmate in the arm for all the unwanted abuse. "Yes, I'm happy."

"Ow. You-" Than Kuroba spontaneously started to laugh instead start up an argument which completely lost him in a sense of rationality.

"See?" Kuroba said when he was done. "Even if it's only for a while, you're our classmate, and you're different." Kuroba winked at him, walking away when Aoko waved him over. "Try actually being both. It's not such a bad thing."

Saguru smiled as he watched the magician walk away, Aoko seeming to scold him for something or another. Yes, he'd find time for normal life. It sounded interesting in the least. He metaphorically though of their last game, seeing Kuroba move much like a scout until he found the flag. "You're game this time, my friend. I never settle for a loss thought. I will get you back."